By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Vita Bella Gala is the main annual fundraiser for American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Marshfield, and this year’s event will be held on May 13 at RiverEdge Golf Course. This will be the seventh annual Vita Bella Gala.
Marshfield’s Hope Lodge Manager Jewel Quelle said that Vita Bella Gala covers about 30 percent of the organization’s annual operating expenses.
Hope Lodge exists to be a home away from home for cancer patients and their caregivers as they undergo treatment in Marshfield. Guests stay at Hope Lodge free of charge. Marshfield’s Hope Lodge is the only such facility in Wisconsin and was the 18th built nationwide.
Vita Bella Gala this year has a circus theme. A social hour, dinner, and silent and live auctions highlight the evening. Quelle said that in 2014 the event raised about $120,000 and last year $140,000.
“Everything raised through the gala stays here (locally),” said Michael Schmidt, who has emceed the gala in years past and is this year’s Spirit of Hope Honoree for his work and involvement with Hope Lodge. Schmidt said Hope Lodge brings people into the community and allows them to stay in a true home-like setting without racking up what would be large hotel expenses as they undergo cancer treatment. He added that volunteers are integral to the success of Hope Lodge.
“We have so many volunteers who do so many things at the Hope Lodge,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt was the longtime president and CEO of Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital and was involved in bringing Hope Lodge to Marshfield.
“It was Mike’s initial recognition of the great impact a Hope Lodge in Marshfield would have on patients traveling to Marshfield for cancer treatment. His foresight was critical in the development of a successful capital campaign for Hope Lodge Marshfield. He has been a true driving force in the Marshfield Hope Lodge project and continues to this day as a dedicated volunteer for our mission,” said Hope Lodge Regional Director Jolene Specht.
“It really is humbling. It’s nice to be recognized for the work that I’ve done over the years with the Hope Lodge. It’s really been something that’s been close to my heart,” Schmidt said.
Jake and Lori Gropp are co-chairs of the Vita Bella Gala Committee this year, and Jake said he enjoyed the experience of organizing an event that supports a cause impacting so many people.
“It’s a good cause. Everybody has people that are touched by cancer,” Jake Gropp said. “It isn’t just the cost of saving the money. It’s the camaraderie there (at Hope Lodge) and the spirit of beating this with other people in your same situation.”
“I wrote the Packers a letter (asking for sponsorship dollars) and said, ‘You know, it’s not unlike your organization at all where you depend on the whole state to support you. We depend on Marshfield,’” Jake Gropp said, adding that he and Lori have looked outside the community to raise money this year and broaden the base of support for Hope Lodge.
Jake Gropp also credited the Vita Bella Gala Committee for its extensive work.
“Everyone spends a great deal of time giving of themselves, be it soliciting businesses or talents of decorating, and also our auction committee and numerous other(s) behind the scenes (are) helping hands,” Jake Gropp said.
To purchase tickets for this year’s event, visit marshfieldhlgala.org and click on the “Buy Tickets” tab. A physical ticket is not needed. The website simply registers people for the event. Alternately, people interested in purchasing tickets can visit Hope Lodge at 611 W. Doege St. in Marshfield.